Cracking Down on Hit and Run Via Social Media

Lewitt Hackman

About 80 percent of hit and run cases between 2008 and 2012 in the Los Angeles area were never solved, according to the Los Angeles Times. Compare that to the city of Denver, whose police force actually resolves about 78 percent of that city's hit and run crimes. 

The reason for the difference? A program called Medina Alerts, which works like the Amber Alert system. Medina Alerts is named for a 21 year old Denver valet who was killed by a hit and run driver while on the job. The Medina system was implemented in 2012 and Colorado's governor approved it for state-wide use last year – City Hall officials here in Los Angeles unanimously approved launching a similar program here.

The hit and run crackdown will have several components: 

  1. All Los Angeles city departments will help to put out notifications on the city's Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as the Emergency Management Department's NotifyLA texting system.
  2. The Los Angeles Police Department will post notifications on Nixle – a web platform on which government agencies share information with each other and certain subscribers.
  3. DASH bus drivers and licensed taxi drivers will receive notifications via dispatch systems, and other city employees such as sanitation workers may get the notifications in the future. Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft may also participate in the future.
  4. Witnesses can receive rewards for coming forward with information leading to a hit and run arrest: $1,000 for property damage, $5,000 for hit and runs leading to minor injuries, $25,000 for those involving serious injuries and $50,000 for hit and run crimes involving fatalities. 

Hit and run alerts will be initiated only when serious bodily injury or fatalities occur, and if witnesses can provide sufficient information regarding the fleeing driver in terms of the driver’s  physical description,  the vehicle's color, partial plate numbers, make or model, etc.

Hit and Run: How Will the Law Change?

Los Angeles City Council asked city attorneys to draft a special ordinance regarding the monetary rewards listed above. Members also voted to support California legislation intended to create a state-wide alert system. Councilman Mitchell Englander said, "these are not accidents – these are crimes" at a recent news conference. 

State Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale) introduced California Assembly Bill 8 in December – intended to launch a "Yellow Alert" system for hit and run accidents. Governor Brown vetoed a similar legislative effort earlier last year, amid concerns hit and run notifications would overburden the Amber Alert program.

As for why the City of Los Angeles rather than the state seems to be riding point in this endeavor, Englander explained that the city is better able to implement a program immediately. 

Compensation Following a Hit and Run Accident

The large number of unresolved hit and run cases in Los Angeles serves as yet another reminder of the importance of uninsured motorist coverage. Considering the 20,000 or so hit and run accidents occurring in this city each year, it is the most important coverage drivers can buy.

Such coverage, especially for hit and run accidents, can garner compensation from the hit and run victim's own insurance carrier for property damage, medical expenses, loss of earnings and pain and suffering – up to the limits of the uninsured coverage. Uninsured limits should always match liability limits.

When a hit and run driver is caught, the victim may also be entitled to additional compensation by making a claim against the driver’s insurance carrier. This is especially important if the victim does not have uninsured coverage. 

Additionally, the victim may pursue restitution through the criminal court system—which could include attorney fees for pursuing compensation for injuries and punitive damages for the driver fleeing the scene.  All such damages may not always be recoverable depending on the financial viability of the defendant.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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